‘Rumors’ at McLean Community Players by Julia L. Exline

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FOUR STARS
McLean Community Players present Rumors, a comedic farce by Neil Simon. Directed by Rosemary Hartman, four wealthy couples arrive for a dinner party, but are instead thrown into an evening full of frenzied chaos, lots of laughs, quick thinking, and downright meltdowns!

The cast of 'Rumors.' Photo by Traci J. Brooks.
The cast of ‘Rumors.’ Photo by Traci J. Brooks.

Set Designer Skip Gresko, with the help of crews of constructors and painters, came up with a beautiful, dual-leveled sitting room full of chic furniture pieces and artwork. The design is sleek, and the chandelier, standing bar, and zebra-print rug lend a modern feel to the posh space. Lighting Designer Bob Zeigler keeps the scenes well-lit, and Sound Designer hits cues such as flushing toilets, music, and telephone rings. Costume Designer Susan Boyd dresses the actors up for a lavish dinner party, including crisp tuxedos and glittery dresses. The production team works well together to create an enjoyable, functional atmosphere for the actors to work in.

When Chris Gorman (Ruth Neaveill) and her husband Ken (Tom Flatt) arrive at the Deputy Mayor of New York’s tenth wedding anniversary party, they come across a bewildering scene—an entirely empty house, except for the unconscious Deputy Mayor himself, who managed to shoot himself in the ear in an attempted suicide! Given the lofty status of themselves and their host, the couple scrambles to avoid a publicity nightmare…but this becomes challenging as more and more guests arrive! However, these guests all have problems of their own to deal with.

Claire and Lenny Ganz (Jina Leigh Ames and Chuck Dluhy) arrive on a sour note, as they were victims of a car wreck moments before their arrival. Ernie Cusack (Steven Rosenthal) is preoccupied with his wife Cookie’s (Joan Zeigler) bad back, and Glenn and Cassie Cooper (Michael Clendenin and Shannon Benton) are sniping waspish accusations at each other through gritted teeth. Through all this, the group finally manages to notice the lack of food, service…or their hosts. As the night wears on, tensions are spread thin, and allegations of conspiracies and infidelity weave a tangled web of political scandal, and everyone finds themselves in a precarious situation. Will this group of guests be able to dig themselves out of this mess?

Chuck Dluhy. Photo by Traci J. Brooks.
Chuck Dluhy (Lenny Ganz). Photo by Traci J. Brooks.

As is usual with farces, the hard-working cast deliver high-energy performances, filled with  a lot of movement, slapstick, and exaggeration. Doors slam every other second, and the actors ran up and down a staircase so many times my neck almost got whiplash watching them! While, for the most part, the ensemble worked well together with the fast-paced dialogue, there were a few slip-ups with lines, and the elevated energy began to wane on me after a while. Farces take things to an extreme, doling on more and more stressful situations to the breaking point, which can become exasperating While I eventually found the breakneck pace of this production a bit exhausting, although the performances were fine, and the direction was solid.

I particularly enjoyed Chuck Dluhy (Lenny Ganz), who performed the entire show with his head held to one side, as his character has a crick in his neck. Witty, blunt one-liners were his forte, and he delivered them wonderfully. Joan Zeigler stood out the most with physical comedy as Cookie Cusack, whose bad back had her flailing on the floor on more than one occasion.

If you like a lively farce, McLean Community Players’ Rumors is a good choice for an evening of entertainment!

Running Time: Two hours and 15 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.

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Rumors plays through May 4, 2013 at McLean Community Players, at The Alden Theatre – 1234 Ingleside Avenue, in McLean, VA. For tickets, call (703) 790-9223, or order them online.